• Published 16th Apr 2020
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If You Would Friend a Tiger... - Coyote de La Mancha



Long ago, Princess Luna gave birth to a son from her own mystical essence. His name was Jack. She also made Jack a stuffed tiger to sleep and play with. This is his story.

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3) A New Friend is Gained.

Years had passed. Jack had, indeed, become quite a hunter despite his youth. If he were a pony, he would still have been in school. But he was not a pony. He was Jack. And while he respected books and the lore they contained, it was the hunt that ever called to his soul.

Yet now, he paused, considering the filly carefully from her room’s shadows.

There were no night terrors tormenting her, of that he was certain. Such vermin were easily detected, their spoor unmistakable. Indeed, he could detect no kind of prey around her. Yet, she curled tightly into herself in the night, miserable, unable to sleep. Until recently, he could have just told Mother about her. There were many dreamers, and more with every passing year. He would have watched over her as she slept, then told her name to Mother come the dawn. Then, Mother would handle the rest.

Only, Mother was gone, now. Reduced to an image in the moon she’d cherished, regularly set in the nighttime sky to remind him of his loss.

Sent away.

By Her.

So. Apparently, this was a problem he would have to solve by himself.

Frowning slightly, Jack steeled himself for whatever response she might have to him. He did not reveal himself to ponies often. In his experience, there was no way to know how they would react until it was too late.

**I come to thee as a friend.**

The foal sniffled.

**I know thou knowest me not, but I would help thee if I can. Please, what ails thee?**

Still, the filly said nothing.

Jack coalesced himself, the fires of his inner light partially illuminating the room, casting their dancing shadows along the walls.

Her eyes were still closed.

**My name is Jack,** he said.

“’Kay,” she said miserably.

After a while longer, she added, “I’m Lily.”

Jack considered her carefully for several minutes. The subtleties of ponies had never been his strong suit. He was a hunter of monsters, a destroyer of evil, not a giver of solace. Racking his brain, he tried to think of what his mother might have done.

Then, he thought back to his own youth, not so long ago, for what he might have wanted if he had been scared.

Which, when he thought about it, hadn’t happened very often. If at all.

Jack frowned, being careful not to give voice to his frustration. There was no sense in frightening the foal with a snarl from the dark. Still, the problem remained: he wanted to help… but he didn’t know how.

Then, the filly gave a sigh of pure loneliness.

That, at least, Jack understood. After a moment’s hesitation, he spoke again.

**What… if I just… stayed with thee?** he asked uncertainly.

“’Kay.”

Gently, carefully, Jack crawled into bed with the little pony, curling his mistlike form around her.

Slowly, she stirred. The room seemed a little warmer to her, somehow, the darkness less scary. Relaxing slightly, she reached out and hugged the warm feline body around her. He was impossibly soft, like solidified smoke that breathed, and smelled pleasantly of campfires.

Then, she opened her eyes.

Jack waited, the tip of his tail twitching slightly.

The little filly smiled.

His tail stilled.

A little later, she was asleep.

Jack stayed with her until dawn.

* * * *

The following night, he returned to Lily’s room. There she was, curled into herself again.

As he took on his more solid form, Lily smiled again, opening her eyes.

“Hi, Jack,” she said.

Again, he curled around her. And, again, she snuggled him, sighing a little as she did.

**Are you alright?** he asked.

“Uh-huh,” She nodded. “I am now.”

He stayed curled around her in silence for a little while. Finally, he spoke again.

**Lily, something plainly troubles thee. Wilt thou confide in me?**

She sighed again.

**Have you tormentors? Do those who are near thee give thee pain?**

It was almost unheard of, but he had learned over the years that some rare ponies would turn on their own children. Of course, one of the first lessons that his mother had ever taught him was to never prey upon ponies, no matter the cause they offered him. That was bad, she’d said. And she’d been right.

Still. Jack had also discovered during his hunts that, under the right circumstances, he was willing to be a little bad.

But the filly shook her head.

“No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just…” She sighed. “I don’t know. It’s always so sad at night. An’ I’m lonesome. An’ it’s scary.”

Jack considered this.

**I can’t promise to come here every night,** he said. **Nor even most nights.**

She squeezed harder.

**But I know someone else who can,** he went on. **Though I should warn thee, he can be a little scary himself.**

“Oh, I don’t mind scary when it’s friends,” she said into his smoky fur. “Scary friends keep the monsters away. But…” She looked down, and said softly, “Will you still come sometimes?”

**Yes,** Jack nodded, smiling. **But for now, wilt thou pardon me but briefly? I can introduce the two of you tonight, if you like.**

Reluctantly, she let him go.

Jack vanished in a swirl of shadow. He reappeared a few minutes later, something black and orange straddling his back.

For the first time, Lily sat up. “What’s that?”

Jack smiled.

**This,** he said, **is a tiger.**

She studied the stuffed toy carefully.

“What’s a tiger?”

**The tigers are a proud and powerful people,** Jack explained. **They are mighty of fang and claw, and skilled hunters, and enjoy being cuddled at night.**

Then, eyes narrowed, he added, **And… they are terrible in their defence of their friends.**

Lily nodded very seriously. “How do I get to be his friend?”

**I shall teach thee his name,** Jack answered. **Each tiger has many names, and most of them are secrets we shall never know. But I can tell thee the special name by which he is called by his friends, and thou can tell him thine.**

“And then we’ll be friends?”

**For as long as thou dost love him.**

Lily took the toy from his back and hugged it close.

“I’ll be a good friend,” she said into the tiger’s orange and black cloth. “I’ll keep thee safe. I promise.”

Jack smiled at her, his soulfire crackling warmly. Then, he leaned forward in the secret dark, and whispered into his friend’s ear their tiger’s special name.

* * * *

Ages passed. Generations were born and died. Its origin long forgotten, the little cloth tiger continued to be passed down.

Sometimes it was a birthday present. Sometimes, it was given for Hearth’s Warming Eve. Sometimes, it was given just because.

But always, always, with the passing of the little tiger came the explanation that tigers are a special people. That they are proud, and powerful warriors. That they are mighty hunters. That they are protective of their friends.

And above all: that to befriend a tiger, one must learn their special name, and love them.

Author's Note:

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Jack’s story continues in modern day here.